Daily Archives: September 27, 2013

Where Do Ideas Come From?

I was sitting here trying to decide what to write about writing and finally admitted that it wasn’t a matter of making a decision: it was a matter of having no idea.

So, I turned to my standard “inspiration point” and pulled up my Face Book page.  (No, it’s not procrastination – it’s research.  Really!)

Seriously, I have a very diverse FB feed – everything from scripture quotes to Big Foot sightings, from archaeological finds to Pagan images, from recipes to equal rights/anti-discrimination posts – they all live in a kind of divergent yet oddly cohesive blend on my wall, and I can usually find something there to inspire a blog post.

But I got to wondering…

Where do ideas come from?  Whether it is for a novel, a poem, a painting, or clothing design… Where do the ideas come from?

I don’t mean just what prompts something.  Where do ideas come from?  What is imagination? Or inspiration?  And why do some people feel the urge – compulsion, even – to create things while others are content to muddle through life with only what is already there?

And what is it like in their world?

I cannot remember a time when I was not lost in imagination or making up stories in my head.  I remember picking different things out of the yard at my grandmother’s house and making “rabbit stew” – I was pretending to be a rabbit and was most upset when she told me that rabbit stew actually contained rabbit – my rabbit stew was for rabbits to eat, not be eaten in, thank you very much.  (And apparently I also had an invisible horse that my Aunt Susan claims she was always in trouble for letting loose.)

Sure, lots of kids have imaginary friends, but most outgrow them by school age. 

I never quite did. 

And that’s okay, because:

Few adults report having imaginary friends; however, as Eileen Kennedy-Moore points out, “Adult fiction writers often talk about their characters taking on a life of their own, which may be an analogous process to children’s invisible friends.”[3] In addition, Marjorie Taylor and colleagues have found that fiction writers are more likely than average to have had imaginary companions as children.[4]

[3] Kennedy-Moore, Eileen (2013) “Imaginary Friends: Are invisible friends a sign of social problems?” Psychology Today; Growing Friendships blog. 31 January 2013.
[4] Taylor, M., Hodges, S. D., & Kohányi, A. (2002-2003). The Illusion of Independent Agency: Do adult fiction writers experience their characters as having minds of their own? Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 22(4), 361-380.

 (There was also talk of a study that showed that children – and teens – who had imaginary friends did better academically.)

(Quoted text is from Wikipedia.) 

And then there was this article which also had a lot to say about writers and imaginary friends. 

But that diversion still didn’t tell me where ideas come from and was starting to look an awful lot procrastination, so I changed my search to try to focus on the topic at hand.

And I got… nothing.

I got lots of stuff about the habits of creative people and unlocking your creative potential and how to become more creative, but nothing about why some people are more creative than others – why some people live to create, feel alive while creating, and others never even think about doing something creative.

I think maybe no one knows. 

But I also think that it’s an interesting question to explore.


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